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Let go of the idea that repressing emotions is a sign of strength

I’m going to say that again for the people in the back: LET GO OF THE IDEA THAT REPRESSING EMOTIONS IS A SIGN OF STRENGTH!

And by the people in the back, I mean me. Yeah, I’m saying it out loud for myself. I’m writing this blog for myself. I’m saying it again for myself: let go of the idea that repressing emotions is a sign of strength.

And why am I saying it for myself you might ask? ... Because once again, I did it, I squished some emotions back down because apparently I needed to get on with my day.

I’m sure you all know by now, I’m a mental health nurse, a trained professional. So why do I need to tell myself this, isn’t this something I should know? Isn’t this something I tell the people I work with on a daily basis, isn’t this my bread and butter?!

Yeah it is; but what's that saying? Do as I say, not as I do!

Working within mental health is really, really, hard right now. Like, really hard. The demand for services has been increasing over the last few years and since the pandemic hit, demand has well and truly exceeded resources. They're aren't enough of us to go around. There are people on waiting lists. The pressure is insane. Knowing how many people who need help with their mental health right now who are on waiting lists, breaks my heart.

Working within a community team is challenging; there are so many people that need our help, but there are also people who need more than what we can give, they need hospital stays to help them but there aren't the beds available right now.

The other day in work it really hit me; I feel like I'm constantly surfing a wave of stress, (now, bare in mind that I've never surfed in my life, I'm going to try and make this surfing metaphor work), so...

Every day I get on my board; I arrive in work

I paddle out; I log on to my computer and take our my diary

I spot the wave I'm going to surf; My diary is chockablock and there is a shit ton of emails in my inbox

I get ready, the wave hits and I stand up on my board; I start replying to emails, attend meetings, get ready for the days sessions, hopefully make a cuppa in there somewhere

Generally the wave is a bit bumpy, but I can make it through the day without any dramas, I don't fall off my board.

But the other day in work, the weather changed; a huge wave hit, it threw me off, I lost my board, and I was under the sea.

It was another email, nothing particularly dramatic, just another email that needed an action and I just had had enough. I read it and couldn't contain the overwhelm; I'd lost my board and felt like I was drowning in the sea of stress.

My colleague must have spotted the look on my face and asked if I wanted to talk about it, this is how that conversation went:

Colleague: Wana go for a walk and talk about it?

Me: No, I haven't got time

Colleague: *Empathetic look*

Me: No, because if I talk about it, I'll cry (I was already crying)

Colleague: but that's ok, let it out

Me: I can't do that, I haven't got time, I need to push it back down

Colleague: No you don't

Me: Yes I do, if I let it out, it wont stop (I was holing my head in hands in lap crying - fully aware of how I was catastrophising in this very moment and how hypocritical I was being because I always teach that emotions are temporary)

Colleague: Yes it will stop (...such a wise ass)

And of course, my colleague was right. It did stop, because it always will. Feelings are temporary, they're visitors, they're waves, they come and they go.

It's just so unbelievably uncomfortable waiting for them to pass.

Sitting with them, allowing yourself to feel them, validating that it fucking sucks to be feeling them; that's the hard work, that's the sign of strength, repressing them isn't.

Because who knows where that shit gets pushed back down to, you know those feelings you push away into that box? They don't stay there. That box will spring right back open whenever something remotely similar happens and triggers that emotion and that makes that next situation even more overwhelming and painful than it would have been if you'd sat with your feelings the first time round... but that's a story for a different day.

So please, try and let go of the idea that repressing emotions is a sign of strength; practice feeling them, sitting with them, they may feel overwhelming at times, but they will pass, they will not consume you.

And remember, to take care of yourself, you are so incredible important and worthy.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog,

Amy xoxo


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